Sensitive talks on housing reforms

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SENSITIVE discussions are ongoing with the local authorities over proposals to reform social housing provision, the minister in charge told MHKs.

But Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw insisted that no decision had been made about reducing the number of housing authorities.

Douglas Council leader David Christian, however, believes that while Mr Robertshaw said he was willing to negotiate, his department has already made up its mind to create just one housing authority for the whole island.

There is a total of 5,501 local authority flats and houses and 643 sheltered homes for the elderly in the island.

In the House of Keys last week, Mr Robertshaw said he would not arrive at concrete proposals for reform until ‘considerable, sensitive discussions’ with local authorities had been concluded.

Douglas East MHK Brenda Cannell asked why, if this was the case, Douglas Corporation believed it was his pre-determined policy desire that his department would become responsible for all of the local authority housing in the island and for all housing authorities to be banished.

Mr Robertshaw dismissed her ‘emotive and inaccurate language’. ‘I have not made any such statement,’ he insisted.

‘Nothing has been completed, which is why it is not appropriate for me to say too much at this stage.

‘Negotiations and discussions are ongoing and again, in due course, I will bring conclusions back to the House as soon as I possibly can and not before.’

Councillor Christian told the Examiner that he welcomed the fact that the Minister was prepared to negotiate. But he added: ‘Unfortunately his officers meeting with our senior officers have painted a different picture.’

He said that a single authority responsible for 6,000 houses would be expected in the UK, but here in the island, local housing was a big part of local authorities. ‘If you remove that function it undermines local government straightaway,’ he said.

Mr Christian insisted that reform of local government was needed, describing the current situation of 24 local authorities, of which 17 are housing authorities, as ‘crackers’. The Corporation is advocating the creation of local authorities for the north, south, east and west, and Douglas, with each responsible for housing and refuge collection.

Mr Robertshaw revealed housing rent arrears reached £244,799 by the end of June.

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